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Still working on the '55 Caddy...Update March 2010


Here we are getting ready to head out on its maiden voyage 2009:
As you can see in this photo, the grille got built and placed in…and that’s my brother’s ’54 Caddy waiting to go rod running with me. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of the pictures here…so let me back up.


the grille pattern I sent just wasn’t going to work). So I cut it up, added some to it, modified it a bit and sent it back and asked for another sample. He sent a new one back and this time it was perfect. He and I then discussed how I was going to attach it and how I was going to “space” it…he offered to cut “washers” out of the same material for literally no additional charge…such a deal…! I gave him the go ahead on lasering the required number of “bars” I needed -- 55 to be exact, plus the required number of spacers. Little over a week later, a package, weighing 70 pounds showed up at my door…my grille bars and waaaaaaaaaaay more aluminum washers than I’ll ever need. The grille was now into its second phase of completion.


BUT, first I had to modify my stock Dagmars…the original stock egg-crate grille extends behind the Dagmars and the Dagmar is about 2-3 inches away from the stainless grille surround…I didn’t want mine that way…I wanted the grille full width…so a little plasma cutting and a little Mig glueing got me the look I wanted…As you can see, I closed up the area between the Dagmar and the stainless...gives the grille more of a full width look...and as you see here, I haven’t gotten the Dagmars finish welded yet and rechromed…that’ll prolly come this winter when I tear it apart again.


The first thing I had to do was to paint all the washers black so they’d “go away” inside the grille, I also had to drill some out so the nuts that held it all together would fit inside the washers.


Once they were painted/drilled, I began assembling the grille…in this pic you can see the seven “rods” I used to hold the grille together and how the spacers worked in between each bar.


In order to make the grille look “satiny”, I had to sand all 55 of the bars -- tops, bottoms and the front sides, (yeah, I chose to make them satin instead of polished. I did each bar individually and then slipped it over the seven rods with a set of spacers in between each bar.When I had about 35 bars assembled, I dropped the whole grille and the 7 “rods” holding the grille together into the holes I drilled in the bumper and added nuts to the bottoms to secure it and make it part of the bumper…I didn’t know exactly how many bars I’d need to be to the hood to complete the look, but 48 bars later it was done. With a little pre-planning, it worked out exactly like I had envisioned it…and the best part of the whole deal: the grille bars fit behind the Dagmars…I had planned on trimming each bar to fit around the Dagmars, but it wasn’t necessary in the long run…unplanned surprises are always the best kind...and the least work some times...!!!


The temporary park lites you see hanging out in the open, on each end will be turned into small, round, bullet shaped ’47 Cadillac park lights once I get the filler metal welded in…then again, I just may extend the grille bars to the sides and put the park lights directly below the headlights…guess that depends on my mood when I start fitting metal…!!!

Now, to the opening wording at the top of this update: “Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am”…that means when things go right, they go right and most times they go in a hurry…I’d sanded and epoxy primered all my garnish moldings, dash and package tray in the week before I started on the grille in anticipation of getting them painted…


And, in the weeks before that, I was laying the ground work for the very same thing (gotta think waaa-aaaay ahead some times)…by that I mean deciding what color(s) I was going to use in the interior and on the body…turns out when we went to Moab, for the April Action car show (last weekend of April), I spied a perfectly good looking 1955 Ford over there done in a nice purple and white…I asked the lady that owned it and she told me it was a stock 1955 Ford color…I liked it and since I’d decided on not doing the car yellow, that color would complement the other color I’d decided on. Well, surprise, surprise (another unplanned surprise that went well and just sorta fell into place), when I got back home I asked my local PPG paint supply guy to look it up, “Sure, got it. 1955 Ford Regency Purple, we can mix that in BC/CC. How much you need?”


Here is a  profile shot of the Cad...well, this is close...this is the only one I have right now...but I'll shoot a couple more now that it's out of the garage...


so here's a mild update...I spent everyday last week working on the Caddy, getting it ready to go to GoodGuy's event at THE RANCH in Loveland, ColoRODo on June 5,6 and 7...the first thing I did was to add some jute to the trunk to quiet all the stuff I carry, took care of a few rattles...


The next thing I did was to unwrap all my newly polished stainless trim (and find all the clips) and attach it all to the body...it all looks killer against the primered body...


So. long about Thursday, after finally checking everything that turns, rolls or moves, and all the fluids in the car, I decided the Cad was ready to make a road trip at hiway speeds...we hit the hiway at 8 AM Friday morn heading north...with some trepidation...but about 20-25 miles into the trip, my anxiety eased...the car is running good.

Hour and one half later we rolled into the event and cruised around until we found a parking spot...

And so, here we are at GG's:


Dan's '54 is running like a top with the new engine/tranny...my engine is running...it burns a bit more fuel than I'd like, but maybe new plug wires will help and maybe even a new Edelbrock carb might help some...So, the Cad is not a garage virgin anymore...the engine has lots of torque and runs good and the tranny works fine...and, best part, it rides like a Caddy should...smooooooooooth...!!!


So, in just a matter of days, the Coop DeVille went from this...


All the way to this...


And then starting at the top, it went to this...


To this...


and finally this...


The wheel is held on with five lugnuts...it's a simple twist of the wrist with the wrench in hand and they'll come off...the skirt is removable...all it takes is a 7/16" socket to remove six bolts...and the whole skirt comes off (both sides are removable, BTW)...then you can "change the wheel..."


When we last left this Caddy building saga (thread)...the interior was just getting finished up...I still hadn't finished the grille..note the area alongside the Dagmars and the square park lites...that's the area I'm going to finish.


This is what I got back ...note the square area in the middle of the bars...I had to have 16 of them done this way ...


Next I laid out my "stuff"...the threaded rods that would hold it all together...the spacers for between the bars and my lone wrench...gotta KISS, ya know...???

Assembly began...bar, spacers, bar, more spacers...bar...more spacers...oh, BTW, I painted all the spacers flat blak (horrors--flat blak on one of my cars...???) Yep, I painted them flat blak so they'd "disappear" ... read into that last statement what you want...!!!


With the bottom bars in place, I had to determine where the park lite would set, it needed to be in the middle of the bars...eight bars later it was in the perfect spot.


The finished piece...I purposely left the rods long at the top because I didn't know quite yet how I was going to mount the piece to the body...


It looked great and would make the car look even wider...I couldn't wait...with one side completely assembled, I had to see what it was going to look like, even tho I had a lot of work building the brackets to hold it in yet to do...I positioned it in the 'hole'...note the top piece of trim has been removed...all the better to see how it would fit and to figure out the brackets.   The easy part was done...now I had to remove the tire and wheel and climb inside the well to figure out how to build the brakets and mount the grille solid so it wouldn't rub, squeak or make noise against the bumper or the body...


When all is said and done...the whole front end looks like this...


and this...


So the summer was a whole kick...my brother, Dan, in his green flamed '54 Caddy, my pal, Ron, in his white '56 Caddy, and I went rod running...can you just picture three Caddys rolling into an event...??? Talk about turning heads...and isn't that what it's all about...??? Why we build our cars...to turn heads...???


We do our best "head turning" out on the hiway...it's prolly a really strange sight to see three Caddys rolling down the hiway...and parked together at an event.


I have two more 'local" events to go to before the car comes apart...and the teardown will happen in mid-October...I won't be doing any more bodywork, it's close but not flat...and I won't be doing the paint...I want this car to be good...and neither my finish bodywork or paint work just isn't that good. This is a Cadillac...it HAS to be good.

The first thing that will happen is to pull the front clip, then the engine goes to the rebuilder...then the interior will come out as well as the glass...then the doors and trunk will come off...and the car will be trailered to the body man...


Probably should add a photo of the park lites lit up, eh...???


Lots of things have been happening to the Caddy since it made its last trip in mid-September...the most important thing was to get the hood hinge assembly taken care of...the passenger's side arms were bent so bad that the hood would not lay flat against the cowl...so, much to my chagrin, I had to seek professional help. I happen to know a very proficient rod builder, have known him for over 25 years...when I have a problem, of any kind, he's the first guy I go to. Quenton Sonnenfeld (Sonnenfeld Enterprises) can figure anything out...and I mean that...at one time he was on the cutting edge of building hydrogen powered city buses...needless to say, any small thing I have is child's play to him. Anyway, I took my Caddy up to him, he studied the hinge assembly as I opened and closed it about 20 times...then asked if I'd remove it from the car...


It took four hours to remove the springs and the old yellow assembly simply becuz I didn't want to remove the fenders to access the bolt that was on the bottom of the hinge...but we got it...and it took all of 15 minutes to slide the new one into place and bolt it down. The rebuilt assembly looked like it laid flat and even with the cowl...but the final test was putting the hood back on and getting it bolted on, which, at one point when I was building the car, a real pain in the ass simply becuz the mounting portion of the hood was hard to get at. Well, my bro went and purchased some new cage nuts for me, we put them in place and slid the hood on and it lined up perfectly with the new cage nuts...the new bolts slid in like they were supposed to and it went together so smooth I thot something was wrong...

I gently lowered the hood and it closed and latched like it was new...I checked the rear of the hood at the cowl...and voila, we didn't even need to adjust it. It fit perfectly.


With that major item out of the way, I moved on to building some pieces to finish off the grille. I dug out the topmost pieces of the original grille and trial fit them.


Sean Cleary, Cadillac engine builder extraordinaire, put this one together for me...good friend Tom Boyle, turned me on to him. He's been building Caddy engines for Tim for a couple of years now...and Sean built Tim's Bonneville record-setting Caddy engine in his Model A sedan. Tim grabbed three new records at B-ville this past August. I think the engine is going to be a good hiway screamer...


So, while waiting for the engine to get built, I pulled apart the front end...the hood was to the first to come off after we fitted the new hinges. It's down at the body shop right now getting its final finish before paint. I pulled the driver's side fender off first...


and then proceeded to pull the passenger's side....both fenders are being sandblasted as we speak...I'm going to do some body work on the inner fenders so those will be smooo-ooooth like the rest of the car...once those get back home that is...As you can see, I've got to pull the engine yet in order to remove that chicken-fat yellow from the firewall...on most kustoms, you seldom see the hood or doors open...reason being it breaks up the lines of the car...but in my case, I didn't want to show off the combination of yellow, blue engine and purple...so I almost never opened the hood while at car events this past summer.


Finally got the engine pulled out...and found out the oil pan Sean put on the rebuilt engine is not going to work in my frame...I've got an Eldo pan and apparently the one he put on mine is an early stocker. Now I'll have to pull my pan and have him swap the two...and probably the oil pickup as well...it's always something that slows you down when building a car. Everything else on the engines simply interchanges.

Now I can start on the firewall ....again...I'm simply going to sand it and then seal it...no sense taking it all the way down to bare metal again. I've also decided to paint the toeboard and firewall/body mounts black...that way it will all disappear.


In the meantime, I've started filling the inner fender panels...they are getting smooth as well. When Cadillac formed them, they apparently didn't have a press strong enough to keep the panels from wrinkling...so I'm smoothing the wrinkles out as well as smoothing the area I welded pieces into to make the A-arm openings. Both inner fenders need to be smoothed and just as soon as I'm done with them, they'll go to the body man.


It’s been a tuff row to hoe this last few weeks…not only because of the weather (we’ve had more snow, and cold, this winter then any I can remember in the past) but every time I tried to do something on the car, it simply didn’t work and I got stymied…but, I’m not a fatalist, I’m the kind that’ll keep at it until it gets done… So…once the front clip was completely off and gone to the bodyman, it was time to pull that dirty, tired engine…


The very last thing I needed to do was sand the firewall…until I realized I hadn’t given any thot to where I was going to place the bulkhead for the A/C unit. Hmmmmmm, better do that before I put on new paint. I crawled under the dash to scope it out…


In the meantime, my bro, Dan, asked if I would help do some small things on his ’54 Caddy since “you’ve got a small opening and there isn’t much to do on yours.”


In the meantime, as I’m working on Dan’s car, I have lots of time to think… I figured there was no sense simply painting the firewall when the door openings need to be jambed, too…guess we’ll sand all that stuff and get it ready, too. I pulled the doors apart – meaning -- the power window motors came out, the glass came out, the vent windows came off and the doors came off the car.


With the doors off and the glass out…I decided it’d be best to remove the interior…it doesn’t need to get painted, or overspray all over it…I removed the rear seat, moldings and armrest and stored them in my bedroom (when you’re single and a bachelor, you can do that…!!!). BTW, the rest of the car’s trim and moldings are in my living room, I seldom use that room.


When I’d taken the doors down to my bodyman, we got to talking about timing as far as getting the car done as he knows I want to have this car ready to debut at GoodGuy’s event here in ColoRODo in June…he asked who was going to paint the firewall and jambs…I said I was and hoped it would turn out well. He said, “If you want, I can come up and do it.” I didn’t expect that…and since he was well aware I’m not the world’s greatest painter, and since I have an ancient spray gun, and since I tend to get in a hurry when I paint, I asked when he had some free time. “Sunday afternoon/evening would be good,” he said…works for me, that’ll give us Saturday to mask it all off…


It took us most of Saturday to mask the car…the doors were the tuffest part…but it got done.


Sunday afternoon at 4:00 he showed up, box of materials and spray gun in hand…he inspected my handiwork and mask job and pronounced it workable. He mixed up the sealer, cleaned the painted area with wax and grease remover, tacked it off and set the air pressure on his gun……the yellow was going away for ever…!!!


After waiting for the sealer to set, Len mixed up the color…three coats later it was lavender…matter of fact, right now I’m calling the color “Lilac.” I’ll think up a better name later.


We waited for the color to set and Len mixed the clear…three coats later it is mighty shiny…note the difference between the straight color and the clear on the edge of the cowl…it has a good gloss to it and at this point, a week later, it doesn’t need rubbing out…but it will get rubbed/polished when the rest of the car gets shot…


So, now I can put the engine/tranny back in (if it ever gets back here…“Hello Sean, you’re really holding me up on my project…I need that engine out here this weekend.” Sadly, a recording doesn’t talk back to you so I still don’t know if Sean will get my engine out here…I guess I’d better call my friend Tim Boyle (Mad-Cad) and ask him what’s up with Sean…

Once the engine/tranny gets back in, then we’ll take the rest of the car down for the rest of the body work…we ARE getting closer…

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